Anatomy of Desire

A St. Louis dominatrix instructs the uninitiated in bondage, domination, sadomasochism, masters, slaves, dungeons and other pleasures and pains

She charges $250 an hour. "Clients vary," she says, "about a half-dozen regulars who come for at least one session every six weeks." She may see no one for a week, then on another week schedule four sessions. She no longer advertises in the RFT "because there are too many fruitcakes." There's an exclusive journal for serious devotees, the Domination Directory International, in which she places the occasional ad.

The legality of her practice, she says "is debatable." Prostitution is defined in Missouri as one person providing sexual gratification, with body or an object, to another person for money. "I don't have sex here. I tell them no sex, no kissing, no hand jobs." Yet, she admits, "If somebody called the vice squad -- I don't want to think about it. I'd just have to be arrested, have the place dismantled. The worst thing is, my son would find out about this."

What occurs during a session varies, depending on the relationship between dominant and submissive. Kali isn't interested in ritual; she prefers surprise, improvisation, all with a tinge of menace. She prepares herself with a few leg stretches, music. Then, she says, "I'll get into full costume -- the makeup, the clothes -- that transforms me mentally into really being ready. I start inventing a scene I want to create, especially if it's a repeat client and I know him." With a new client, it's more a matter of spontaneity, she says. "I like the sense of improvisation, the sense of the unknown."

Rose Johnson

Her clients are men, although in personal play she enjoys women, too: "They're very responsive." It's Kali's theory that fewer women pay for play because "a man can't go up to a woman and say, 'I want to be spanked.' Women don't have to pay for kink -- it's too readily available."

If Kali's meeting with a new client, she says, "I have his questionnaire all ready. I don't like people coming off the street. I want someone to think about it for several days. When they come in, I have them remove all their clothes and put them on a chair in the corner. I meet them in full fetish attire," so the client is immediately alerted to the fact that he is moving into a very separate theater from the one he performs in daily.

"I sit with him at my feet, and I put a collar on him. I tell him the rules of the dungeon -- no sex. Another rule is my safe word, and they can use it at any time to stop a scene. They have the power to stop it.

"I go over the questionnaire. I might have specific questions about what is on it and what's not on it.

"When here, they refer to me as 'Mistress.' They are to speak loudly and clearly. By this time I've probably taken them by the collar and paraded them in a big circle, just to help get them in the mindset of being on the floor, naked at my feet. I might have them stomp around on all fours."

She's sure to probe into any medical conditions ahead of time: Are the client's knees strong? How's the lower back? The heart? What medications does he take? If there were ever an emergency, she says, "I'd drag them out in the alley and then call 911."

Depending on a client's physical capacities, Kali says, "I may get on their back and have them take me for a horsy ride. I may pull the hair on the back of their head. I slowly dehumanize them. With a new client I would start out very slowly. I might play with some of these things" -- she gestures toward an antique travel chest with drawers containing dildos, vibrators, plastic wrap "and other playful items." She might choose to wear leather gloves. She might force the client to "keep knees and ankles apart, which makes them very vulnerable.

"Most guys are very visual," she continues. "Their eyes will follow me around. I'll take a blindfold: 'It's very rude to stare. I'll put this blindfold on you.'

"It's such an individual thing -- putting on wrist cuffs and ankle cuffs. I can help someone get into that very submissive state. I don't do much rope bondage. I enjoy it because it's very beautiful, but (the clients) are time-sensitive. I have to respect that there's only so much time they can stay." Sometimes she'll recognize there's only 15 minutes to go, and if the client doesn't have to be anyplace soon, she'll tell them, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then they're off the clock and on Kali's time.

She explains the various implements on her wall display, which features a variety of riding crops and her two favorite whips. Whipping isn't an activity you can learn in a continuing-ed course. She started "with a man from Chicago who was submissive to me. He gave me my first whip and taught me how to use it. It's really just a matter of practice.

"I can draw it across your skin like a butterfly kiss."

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